Born in Ely, Minnesota in 1922, Frank Kalan studied at the Institute of Art in Chicago after which he got his start as Al Buell's apprentice.  During WWII he served as a gunner in the Air Force and in the late 50's he moved to NYC where he joined Al Chaite's midtown advertising art studio.  Early clients included Pyramid Books, Avon Publishers and Coca Cola. Frank worked in pen and ink as well as oil and at the time was best known for his "bodice-ripper" book covers. Friends and colleagues included Bob Abbett, Joyce Ballantyne, Al Buell, Marilyn Conover, Ben Denison, Darrel Greene, Lenny Goldberg, Bob McGinnis, Barney Plotkin, Joe Rakowsky and Jack Thurston.

When photography eventually replaced illustration as the ad medium of choice Frank went on to spend the 70's, 80's and 90's producing romance novel cover art for Toronto-based Harlequin Enterprises. He also captured a sliver of Harlequin history by saving many of his Art Directors' notes, model shots and final tearsheets. Six examples appear on the Process page and show how a book cover got made, from instructions to final cover art. Regardless of style (hot and racy, chaste and sweet or family oriented) the work always had to place the hero and heroine center stage, connect with the target market, cement the sale and provide a scene the reader could return to while imagining the the lives of the characters. 

In December 2017, Frank's family donated 130 covers and supporting materials to the Browne Popular Culture Library at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, where they now make up The Frank Kalan Romance Cover Art Collection. Another 200 covers remain in family possession and about half appear here as a partial reference catalog; a link to view the rest of the catalog is coming shortly. All were done on boards sized roughly 16"x20" and produced at the rate of one per month, sometimes two.

We welcome inquiries from parties interested in exhibition, university research, teaching, or individual aquisition. Prices range from $400-$750, based on the complexity of the cover and the supporting materials available.


Frank died in 2003 at the age of 81. This site is maintained by his family and in addition to the romance cover art it holds examples of earlier illustration work and a few of the home polaroids he took to get a quick pose. We plan to participate in the 2018 Popular Culture Association conference in Indianapolis and welcome invitations for other events. Please contact us with any questions or suggestions.

Site design by Lindsey Warren